Welsh Bishops announce new code

19 September 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

INDIVIDUALS in the Church in Wales who cannot accept the consecration of women of bishops can seek sacramental provision under a code of practice prepared by the Bench of Bishops. But there will not be a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, and parishes will be unable to opt out of their bishop's jurisdiction and administration.

The Bill to permit women to be consecrated as bishops was passed by the Governing Body in September last year. It came into force earlier this month, and required the Bench of Bishops to produce a code of conduct to be published at this week's meeting of the Governing Body in Lampeter.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, used his presidential address on Wednesday afternoon to outline the provisions of the code of practice. But members of the Governing Body had to wait until later on Wednesday to receive their copies. Dr Morgan said that the presidential address was unusual in being the unanimous message of the whole Bench of Bishops.

The code was presented to the Governing Body members as they left the debating chamber for a coffee break on Wednesday afternoon. There was no debate, reflecting the position that the Code is the responsibility only of the Bench of Bishops, but Archbishop Morgan said that the Bench reserved the right to amend the code at some point in the future.

The code contains five principles, five provisions, and an explanatory note. These include the universal recognition of the jurisdiction of women bishops in the Church; but also the right of individuals - not parishes - to make written requests, supported by a letter from their parish priest, to their bishop for alternative sacramental provision.

The code says that the bishop shall make alternative provision which could involve inviting another bishop to perform a Confirmation or Ordination; or sending the individual to another diocese to be confirmed or ordained. This would also apply in cases where a person would prefer to be confirmed or ordained by a female bishop.

Dr Morgan explained that "the Church has moved on, and the situation is very different" since women were first ordained as priests and it appointed a Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV). At that time, he said, the Bench were agreeing limitations on their own ministries. If they appointed a PEV now, they would be imposing limitations on the ministry of a future woman bishop, and that was a different matter.

Full reports from the Welsh Governing Body will appear next week.

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